Torkwase Dyson: Black Compositional Thought | 15 Paintings for the Plantationocene
Co-Curated with Katie Pfohl

January 24 - April 19, 2020
New Orleans Museum of Art

Torkwase Dyson employs abstract shapes and forms as a means of exploring the intersections of environmental liberation, movement, and architecture. Within her practice, she has developed a unique vocabulary of abstract lines, forms, shapes, and edges informed by her own evolving theory of Black Compositional Thought. This working term considers how waterways, architecture, objects, and geographies are composed and inhabited by black bodies, and how the properties of energy, space, and scale can form networks of liberation.

Produced for the New Orleans Museum of Art, this new series of fifteen paintings is about composition. These works are inspired by the design systems of architecture, water infrastructure, the oil and gas industry, and the physical impact of global warming. The exhibition also examines the legacy of plantation economies and their relationship to the environmental and infrastructural issues of our current age, which many characterize as the “plantationocene.” Injecting these spatial constructions with a sense of precarity and emancipatory possibility, Dyson asserts new perspectives on geography, imagination, and belonging. As she writes, “I am interested in how the illusion of space pushes up against real space on a two-dimensional surface … and how the compression of the two produces something indeterminate, modular, poetic, haptic, and unsteady.”

Dyson draws a connection between the abstract forms of her art, and the networks of industrialized white supremacist power that shape our political landscape: histories of spatial segregation, policing and vagrancy laws, and other “exclusions of subjectivity” that often hide in the abstractions of machines, maps, and data. Her practice takes up abstraction as a tool for reshaping our current political landscape, and reimagining these systems from within.

Selected Press:
Artforum
Burnaway

Torkwase Dyson, Up South 3 (Water Table) and Up South 4 (Water Table), 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 60 in. diameter